Thoughts, Dabbles & Finely-tuned Prisms

 by Barnaby Furnas

“The unconscious mind is a rolling sea of buried memories, primordial drives and unthinkable desires.” (Freud)—“The Imagination is never wrong, since it does not have to confront an image with an objective reality.” (Bachelard)

Muscling through a warm Autumn, I hope that this winter brings snowflakes to my eyelashes, but I certainly won’t be giving “cold stares.”

On Collaborations—one problem that tends to arise (or has arose in the past) is when models (or potential models) batter me with the dreaded “WHY?”-question (in reference to what I am looking to accomplish visually). Rarely have I ever been deeply “on the same page” with another photographer or potential model, and at times it can be staggeringly-frustrating. This “lowering of the boom” tends to stem from being at a kind of “crossroads” with varying perspectives, etc. (I reference this solely in regards to the Art Form, and not one’s objective or one’s attitude [whether full of fish-hooks or not]), or even one’s objet d’art (which is a totally different matter in itself). To touch upon a familiar saying, what people often do not understand, they question. Questioning an artist’s vision(s) typically makes the artist not want to work with the person that is doing the questioning—what purpose does it serve? It certainly isn’t to exploit the artist’s foibles. (Interesting that, as a Collagist, the paper acts as ‘types’ of ‘models’, yet how satisfying the silence is, which is deafening! [as a collagist, I suppose instead of being “Tangled in Blue,” I’m Tangled in Glue]) … I’m spoiled, really. I’ve been spoiled the majority of my life with a special-effects makeup artist, kindred-spirit uncle, and our seemingly rewarding relationship that stems from “being on the same page,” and full of many parallels. This is more than Phenomenology, perhaps; it’s akin to building the impossible dream, or living it. My dear uncle is like a father to me. There have been many instances where we have disagreed on certain subjects as pertaining to the creative process, but the respect/love is so starscapingly deep that the disagreements are outweighed. Disagreements can be built upon, fed from, and therefore ‘used’ for different purposes, if one doesn’t let their pride take over, which “goes before a fall” (which is such a ruinous pathos!). I have immense respect for everyone’s vision, whether or not their vision interests me. Rarely does one discover another kindred-spirit, without all of the lucrative appeal that can stem from the creative processes—the sample-size is slim and narrow is that road (“the artist is an isolated agent,” and as Sherlock Holmes would say from The Red Headed League, “Sometimes I think my whole life is spent in one long effort to escape from the commonplaces of existence”). Those that have the sensibilities to create “for art’s sake” (whatever that truly means), that truly yearns and identifies with the emotional impetus for the creative process—and the ideas themselves—has been something of a strange sophistication for me. However, this isn’t to say that I have not had beautiful experiences, because there have indeed been many that I have discovered as being lively, free-wheeling that merely flow like a roaring river (and, at times, the latitude and longitude-types that could come unglued at any given moment!), etc. Questioning The Artist is like questioning The Gardener’s love for planting seeds, or questioning The Painter why he/she paints with their particular style. Again, rare is the kindred-spirit or friend that are genuinely supportive/appreciative of each individual vision. It’s akin to the bird with a broken wing that gets discovered by someone that nurses its wing back to health—the feeling of seeing that bird take off into the sky again is beyond description. A vision is a vision—why question it? To be pierced by such blades of questions, why don’t I just go ahead and walk the plank?

George Stanley: “Now the words tell of something so obvious / as to see the air in front of you / but not to have known it was something / to see.”

Let’s go into the darkroom and shed some light on the subject.

In regards to Surrealism—what I particularly love about surrealism, which fascinates me more than just about anything, is the fact that the possibilities of surrealism are endless and that it tends to break the barriers of perception (from the viewer’s standpoint): it generates within a mind the familiar acquaintance of the Oneiric landscapes, woven during sleep, where ‘opposites’ are free, corrosion and the expressionless navigations are uncontrolled, and the vast landscapes that shape (and undoubtedly never end) our mental dialectics are familiarly-unfamiliar, like the soft veil that gently lays over the subconscious, that yearns to be removed. I can also identify nearly incredibly perfectly to Rene Magritte’s interests for “the search for certain strange relationships between objects or between people and objects.” This “process of re-birth” with objects or between people and objects is mysteriously enchanting and connects with me very well. What may seem “far-fetched” or “absurd” to some may be quite beautiful and romantic to others. The Powers of Observation are that of which not everyone has, but it’s primarily a product of not caring—this attitude fits logically with most, I’ve noticed. I recognize myself in Magritte’s outlooks, as well in other artists, poets, photographers, etc. Certain ideas evolve and then one thing leads to another. In surrealism, the Imagination seems far more dominant. The Imagination often creates mental-images of things observed earlier or of things unexperienced or even non-existent, and it’s also the primary flame of which abstracts/obscures/distorts these images of things through comparisons, or perhaps merely combines them all together in new ways. Coleridge once said: “Poetry is the direct and natural medium of the mind’s activity.” The altering of images on the basis of Resemblance (i.e., Perception of Simultaneous Relationships) is the dream I seek to re-create visually/physically (even though Andre Breton believes [and I mostly agree] that no artist has completed control—conscious control—over his or her work, and that the unconscious is a prime arbiter of subject matter and style. Similarly, Odilon Redon once said that “nothing in art is achieved by will alone,” but rather “everything is done by docilely submitting to the unconscious”). 

The Surreal is For Real. 

Being “mindful.” I renew my own world daily simply by moving my face. Simply ‘paying attention’ to something is like having an inward magnifying glass. Light the flame, or light the flume. Sometimes the Laws of Attraction pains me; it’s like a bolt of pangs right through the soul.

“Arriving at a knowledge of things by continuous comparison” strikes my heart right. The Pre-Historic is burning in my body. All hidden objects are fossilized. Do objects exist only when our eyes fixate upon them? Pondering the idea of an illusion of an illusion. The ear of any experience listens for a future day before a catastrophe envelopes, and therefore prior to a casket lowering. This world often seems unsure of itself, because of increasing contradictions. I’m over-sensitive to all things. I’m obviously keenly aware of my daily evaporations. I ponder the enchanting idea of all uninhabited space being cradled and rocked like a baby, and to then bring this uninhabited space into a resonate existence with surrounding recognition, perhaps choked in mirth. A ‘something’ so often looked upon as grotesque or not beautiful is just the start of the process for coming to the realization that one may be wrong, similar perhaps to the way one may look at a mole upon a beautiful woman’s cheek, or under her lip, or anywhere on her face, which is considered a “beauty spot,” or like a “lewd little star”—to see this often ‘gross’ object as ‘beautiful’ because of the beautiful landscape that it inhabits is like watching a river of sewage washing upon streets of gold.

The singing of invisible birds, all-around. So many things can happen in a glance: the flickering of the lights turn off as a leaf falls to the ground through a window—blue-yellow road covered by night-light naturalism. I see the “unordinary” in the ordinary.

My sleep sharpens me like a pencil; dreams are curly shreddings falling; they meet me as I wake, and when my feet touch the floor as I rise from my bed, the shreddings instantaneously wrap themselves around my ankles. My dreams seem to be teetering on the lip of a casket; the garment of my inner-earth encloses on images, and with a tender smile smolders my existence. When we shut our eyes to sleep, the light within us moves backwards (perhaps only for poets?). Are my dreams mere spectators? With vigor, do they somehow carry out “instructions”? The graphics in dreams are unmatched by any other ‘conscious’ manifestation/creation/reality.

Margritte: “I think the best title for a painting is a poetic title. In other words, a poetic title compatible with the more or less lively emotion which we feel when looking at a painting. I imagine it requires inspiration which tells one, for instance, the name of a town whose panorama the painting represents or the symbolic role attributed to a painted figure. A title which has this indicative function does not require any inspiration in order to be given to a painting. The poetic title has nothing to teach us: instead it should surprise and enchant us.”

Photographing figure models is another way of “studying abroad” (‘a broad’).

Ludwig Borne suggested that to foster creativity you should “write down, without any falsification or hypocrisy, everything that comes into your head.”

Before the discovery of fire, everyone had fire in their eyes.

Jean Fisher: “The shadow does not belong to the world of objects, it is but an interruption in the path of light—a fragile imprint—that occupies an in-between or ‘other’ status to objective reality.”

I truly love it when I have one frame left on a roll of film. I tend to leave it there, sometimes for weeks, knowing that it’s waiting to be exposed, to materialize into a “something,” to cut through that dark void, waiting for the muscles to come alive in my index finger to press the shutter-button, to open the eye/throat of the camera. One frame left. It is like having one more minute left with a good friend before having to say goodbye, but knowing that the next time you see that person, there will be more treasures to be had, which is what happens after the one frame has been touched by ancient light. The roll is developed and then comes new constellations for your eyes, no matter the outcome.

Photography should be the first detected sunrays that illuminate the earth. 

Artists are lying when they say that they have "never been influenced." The superego, a la Freud's rivulets, seem to be manifesting. 

Since vampires cannot see themselves in mirrors, they must have to play guesswork when they shave. Perhaps they shave when they are showering? My uncle said, “Good thought.”

Interesting tid-bit: Dark Shadows’ Dennis Patrick played the first-ever vampire on television, which was on “Stage 13” which lasted but 1 season in 1950.

Uncle T.H.: “I don’t want my wonderings to cease, nor do I always want my wonderings to be answered. I guess that’s a good reason not to have the internet; then it would cure all of my wonderings.”

My uncle told me recently that possums “playing possum” is a myth. They never really “play”—instead they actually faint from fear. I never knew that until a few weeks ago.

This poem ‘came to me’ after seeing a dead squirrel in the road:

Dead squirrel in the road—
its fluffy tail, still alive,
blowing in the autumn wind.


Joy Harjo: “I’ve always had a theory that some of us are born with nerve endings longer than our bodies.” … Possibly “air bodies” . . . or as D’Annunzio said: “The richest events occur in us long before the soul perceives them, and when we begin to open our eyes to the visible, we have long since committed ourselves to the invisible.”

Robert Romanyshyn: “Regard the world with soft eyes in the spirit of loving wonderment.”

“Violence is the last refuge of the defeated”—“Life is nothing but waiting, we’re all waiting to die; some of us must wait longer than others” (I heard these quotes on a classic episode of “Whirlybirds”) . . . and quotes from elsewhere: “and they will execute the executioner” . . . “that’s the tombstone I’m erecting over him”

Shape, rattle and roll.

If only people would genuinely get to know another person, one would discover many celestial galaxies and worlds within their hearts, whether ‘good’ or ‘bad’.

A couple of weeks ago, I took self-portraits in my grandfather’s bathroom one morning during my visit there. I could smell the piercing aroma of his hair tonic penetrating my senses, which were already running amuck. Later that day, I asked my uncle if he would simply tell me something enchanting. He immediately responded: “Her eyes are like two pools of desire.” I asked him if he ever “fed his bliss” and as I expected he said “yes.” I asked, “What’s that like?” and he said, “Blissful.”

Uncle T.H.: “I don’t like gorilla movies much—the gorillas look like what they are: men in bad gorilla suits.”

Is there any such thing as “over-pondering”? Thoughts such as … Why is the film called “House on Haunted Hill,” when it’s really merely a house on a haunted hill? Is the house haunted because the hill is haunted, or is the hill haunted because of the house? Or are they both one haunting in-accord? … I feed on the flickering flames of ponderingness; I’m easily amused, for that matter. That typically explains everything.

A change of plans, or change of planets.

Me: I wish I still had my childhood rocking-horse.
Uncle: Me, too.
Me: I’d probably be on it right now.
Uncle: Me, too.

“Time is a crook” said Peter Lorre in Beat the Devil (1954) (which was widely recognized as the “first camp movie.” Off-beat deliciousness. Bogie apparently hated it. I must be a phony, because he said afterwards that “only phonies like it.”)


Worth it:

Anything by Gaston Bachelard (especially The Poetics of Space - free PDF Here)

Max Picard’s World of Silence

Maurice Merleau-Ponty, The Visible and The Invisible 

Charles Rycroft, The Innocence of Dreams


Plethora of Photographers Here

Interesting photographs by Sohee Kim Here


Eliot Porter: “Photography is nature, and so critics have thought it was not art. But if these photographs did not show you what they did, you would never have been able to discover it. The golden age of the child’s omnipotence is succeeded by the Jovian world of adults and of art. Adults classify, generalize and ignore. But the ability to distinguish comes first. Can we as adults be sure that we see more deeply, through art, than the photographer who pretends to do nothing but pay the closest possible attention to everything? He distinguishes endlessly and he dares not ignore. What does love come from if not just this scrupulous respect and close attention? The trouble with art is that, in choosing, the artist ignores. The trouble with the realistic artist is that he is indirect, and between himself and his experience he puts concepts: a steely equality of detail, conceptualistic anatomy, or the métier of the old masters. The non-objective artist is closer to the photographer in his reliance on direct experience. But, because he is not interested in objective nature he tends to lose his contact with concrete variety. The trouble with this is that it leads to a loss of a feeling for pluralism, as though all experience were becoming one experience, the experience of everything.”


Between the idea
And the reality
Between the motion
And the act
Falls the shadow
--T.S. Eliot, from ‘The Hollow Men’

Joyce Carol Oates tweets: Tweets are the flitting shadows of actual life unglimpsed in actual life and then: A tweet is a synaptic leap with no neuron awaiting.

Recently overheard: “If I color my hair, I can go anywhere” (after being told by someone [I am assuming a friend] that certain towns in Mexico are dangerous, and that, if the townsfolk of that certain town do not recognize you, then “you will return looking worse than you did when you went there”). 

One weekend night, when I was 16, as my friend and I were sitting outside of our camping tent, we both simultaneously saw a white spectre floatingly-glide in-between two buildings. I asked him, “Did you see that?!” and he said, “Yeah! I did!” We both ran towards the space where we saw the entity. Later, as we were "looking for something," we ended up in the middle of a dark highway that was opposite of a large field, and as we stood there, off in the distance we saw a geometrical miracle of aerial radiancy which would be inexplicit to describe. It looked like a semi-clear, whitish lace-like figure that was hovering slightly above the highway, pulsating and slowly moving at a clockwise pace. A few seconds later, it vanished (as if moving backward into darkness, like seeing a vehicles tail-lights disappear into the night).


Robert Champigny: “Air is breathing rather than what a body breathes.”

Thomas Nashe: “Brightness falls from the air”

Jindrich Styrsky